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It’s Time To Clean Up Poker (Part 2)

Posted by Leatherass

People are actively trying to kill poker in America. The entire world is looking at us.

And we look like shit.

As I’ve said before, we seem to be the only industry that actively drives away sponsorship and audience growth by dressing and speaking immaturely. We wouldn’t go to the office wearing hoodies, flat-brimmed hats worn sideways, sunglasses and an iPod, but that’s exactly what we do on television in front of millions.

It’s costing us millions.

Want proof? More than 2.2 million people watch the World Series of Poker Main Event. The show delivers literally the most desirable advertising demographic: males, 18-35. Moreover, that audience is known to be willing to spend money, and have more education and discretionary income than the norm. Even better, that audience is mobilized efficiently because so many of them congregate in common places online; thus, you don’t need to overspend to attract them to watch. Finally, the poker audience is not passive. We feel misunderstood and have an underdog mentality that leads us to not just watch these shows, but advocate for them.

So who is the presenting sponsor for this event? Cadillac? Nike? Bank of America?

Nope. Jack’s Links. The WSOP delivers one of the premier audiences in sports, and it’s sponsored by a beef jerky company. Our demographic is not too much unlike golf’s — in fact, I’d bet the average poker viewer is more likely to spend money with advertisers than the average golf viewer. Yet to look at our sponsors you’d think we’re the redheaded stepchild of NASCAR’s bastard cousin.

Poker is big business, and the business is suffering. Ratings were down for the WSOP last year by 30%, and that’s the least of our problems. We have an image problem. This is a chance for us to alleviate our image as a bunch of guys who looks suspiciously like the Unabomber. Part of treating your poker like a business is dressing like you’re at your job. Why not look professional instead of like someone who might have a body in the trunk of his car?

Most of you know that I come from the golf world, but please don’t read this as me projecting my values on you. I love hoodies. My wife will tell you I’m the last guy who dresses to impress.

I feel like I’m merely stating the obvious. Historically, dressing well and behaving with kindness have attracted sponsors. Call me a sellout; I don’t care. I don’t know about you, but I got into poker to make money.

Now that poker is on the lips of the secular media, you have to imagine marketing officers with major potential sponsors are looking at us closely, thinking, “If this game goes legal, we need to know if we should get into striking position. Ratings will go from good to great and the demo will only get better. But look at these characters…”

The biggest sponsors are by nature conservative. In golf, those companies have no issue aligning themselves with top players because their odds of snapping are remote. (Tiger being the great exception.) Meanwhile, one of our lead spokesmen throws chairs across a room and collapses on the ground and cries for seven minutes. We are not a slam dunk for Audi or IBM.

I think the WSOP needs to take the lead on this in lieu of our having a governing body and establish a dress code. Since Black Friday, it’s possible that all the other poker shows will soon go away because they were either PokerStars or Full Tilt-sponsored. They’re not going to market to U.S. customers who are no longer served. The best chance to reach the general public is through the WSOP.

While I would support the WSOP implementing a dress code, the WSOP shouldn’t even have to lay down rules of behavior, but rather do as they do in golf and get the top 15-20 players in a room and explain how good decorum translates to dollars. They explain that if you want to make money, don’t throw clubs and please sign autographs. The PGA Tour is peer-led, as is the poker community, and if the top tier of players are aligned, the rest will take care of itself.

Poker is a strange animal in that we’re trying to be accepted and build viewership, but we need to ask people to take care of these basic things that should be obvious. This is a guy with a great education and real talent begging for an interview with your company, then when you get it for him he shows up wearing flip-flops and snapping a can of chew.

I’m not asking anyone to sublimate his personality. To me, the ideal persona is Daniel Negreanu’s. He’s clean cut and respectful, but also has a huge personality and keeps the table chatting. He talks a lot, but nothing he’s saying is bad for poker. There’s a good reason he’s among the highest paid poker players in the world: he’s a smart guy with a common touch.

Let’s turn that on its head. Do you know of a single player who wears a hoodie and talks trash constantly who has succeeded long term? I’m not talking about a flash in the pan, one-weekend wonder. I’m talking about a player with longevity who’s on one of the elite teams.

I’m something of an authority in this field. I’ve been ripped as much as anyone. I’ve had trash talk directed at me in quality and in volume. And I can tell you one thing I know for sure: I have never, ever been publicly blasted by someone who makes more money than I do at poker.

I understand that online poker grew into a multi-billion-dollar industry off the labor of hoodie-wearing trash talkers. I just want the game to remain a place where all of you can continue to thrive and make a good living, which will be impossible if we continue to behave the way we do.

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How to improve learning, first blog!

Posted by Azurehaze

Alright, I recently signed up at DTB, and thought about how to increase my poker learning. Suddenly, I remembered this chart that looked like a food pyramid that I saw in a bio class.
I did google search, and found this pic,r:0,s:35&biw=1024&bih=475
Now, I'm trying to figure out how to assimilate the whole pyramid than just the bottom part (playing poker).
Hopefully with DTB, I'll be able to rebuild my roll from the effects of "Black Friday."

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I believe in poker the way I believe in the American Dream…

Posted by tacojohnsftw

I believe in poker the way I believe in the American Dream. Poker is good for you. It enriches the soul, sharpens the intellect, heals the spirit, and - when played well, nourishes the wallet. ~Lou Krieger

It’s been eight days since Black Friday and I’ve finally decided to try and make some sort of plans for the future. When I received ten emails/texts/phone calls on Friday afternoon I approached the situation like I’ve approached all the bad beats I’ve taken over the past 10 months. Sigh, and move on. I didn’t realize the true impact of what this ban meant to me until I told my wife, when I got home from work. She said with tears in her eyes, “What’s going to happen to your dream?”

I planned to quit my job in September, and run and investment website and live off poker revenue. With poker revenue questionable for the next few months I’ve been struggling thinking of what my future looks like, as in the past 10 months the only future I envisioned was poker.

I’ve decided that I’m going to re-dedicate myself to the math/training side of the game and try to become a much better player. I’m also going to sign up at Lock, Carbon, and fund my Black Chip account to make sure I don’t get too lazy. After losing my whole bankroll on Stars and FTP last week, I’m going to have start off small again and try and rebuild my bankroll.

I’ve been looking into MTT’s on the aforementioned sites, and most of the guarantees are a fraction of what we saw on Stars and FTP so I’m going to start back at the beginning.

10 hours of training (videos/hand histories)
100 9 Man SNG’s
10 hours of training
100 18/27 Man SNG’s
10 hours of training
100 45 Man SNG’s
10 hours of training
100 90/180 Man SNG’s

This should take me a few months to complete, and by the time I’m done I should be ready to play on stars and FTP while living abroad. I have to say, while the short term looked pretty bleak for me, I feel like by continuing to grind the training and my inevitable move abroad in January, maybe things aren’t so bad.

Most Saturday’s I’d be grinding out a 8 hour tournament schedule - today I’m going fishing. :0

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Keep Going

Posted by Leatherass

Well, it has obviously been a difficult time for everyone the past few days. I would liked to have been here to weigh in on this whole situation, but I was in England with my wife for the Party Poker Big Game 5, where ultimately I became too ill to play, first with a major ear infection that turned into vertigo during the flight. All wasn’t lost, however, because I was later able to co-host the show for nearly 24 of the 48 hours that the show ran. (Not as easy as it would seem with vertigo. Fortunately I was able to blame any incoherence on sleep deprivation.)

I want you to know how flattered I was that so many of you came to might site and Facebook page when you heard the news on “Black Friday.” I truly wish I was in a position to provide better leadership. My heart breaks for all of us. For most of us represents not only income, but community as well. I’ve had the chance to cross paths with so many fascinating, thoughtful people I’d have had no chance to meet were it not for poker. The money is what it is. But for a lot of us we have the sense that the train is pulling out, and our community is waving goodbye to us from the station.

It’s also something that many of us are good at, not to mention a huge part of our daily ritual. Subtract all those things at once, and your world is turned upside down.

Many of you have asked how I’m doing personally, for which I’m incredibly grateful. I’ll quickly address that before moving on to how you’re doing. I also want you to know that I’m going to be recording a podcast in a day or so that answers some of your specific questions, and addresses the particulars of what you should and shouldn’t be doing during this time of great upheaval. Today what I’d like to articulate is a larger theme; a hopeful one.

I’ll address for a moment what’s happening in my life. It was disconcerting to say the least, to be in England and far from my work, my company, my friends and my family. I’m generally someone who likes to process information before reacting — and given distance, sleep deprivation and illness, the processing came slowly.

Having taken a week to think things through, you might be surprised at the conclusion to which I’ve come.

In a strange way, I almost feel as if a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I don’t think I truly realized how stressful it was to write books, play a million hands a year, study poker, make instructional videos, write columns for two magazines, play the WSOP, fulfill my Team Poker Stars obligations, and everything else that is involved with being aggressive with my career. Plus, the games simply got absurdly hard online, and I was trying to be a good husband and father while trying to stay one step ahead of kids who don’t have one-tenth of all of those things to worry about. Fortunately, I’ve saved the vast majority of what I’ve made over the years in online poker, which aids me in the perspective I’m gaining.

Enough about me. Let’s talk about you.

The main reason this whole situation weighs on me as it does is that I genuinely feel for my friends who’ve made a living off this game directly or indirectly. I know there are many out there who either didn’t save money very well or were newer to the game and didn’t have time to set aside money.

But what I’d like to do is instill in you a sense of hope and optimism for poker and our community. I’ll tell you a quick anecdote about my time in London that might build a bridge to this larger point.

When I had a chance to speak with my business partner about what we’d do in the aftermath of this devastating news, we committed to one another that we’d soldier on and find an opportunity here somewhere. As we were about to hang up, he gave me a Churchill quote: “If you’re going through hell, keep going.”

Later that day I was texting back and forth with another friend, Matt Reilly, who’s spent a lot of time traveling abroad and recommended a restaurant where I could take my wife for a good meal in London (which are rare). When the host took us to our table, we were seated next to a wall on which the same Churchill quote was written.

That had to be a sign.

Awhile back, I posted an article that says the most important characteristic that determines success is not talent; it’s grit. Part of grit is getting through the tough times. If you talk to any successful person, they’ll tell you about a time when they could have stopped, but instead decided to keep going. When those who have grit go through hell, they keep going.

It is incredibly unfortunate that something like this has happened. I think we all knew that poker could go away for a period of time, but I am pretty sure most of us thought that if it did, there would at least be some warning of some kind. I don’t think many of us ever thought we would go to log in and get an FBI logo pop up on our screen! I know I sure didn’t.

Having finally arrived back home and gotten in front of the computer for a good chunk of time, I’ve read through much of what has been said and written about this whole situation. Most are reacting emotionally, which I understand. Maybe the big three poker rooms acted illegally (though that’s far from a certainty). I absolutely share the view that most of you have that the U.S. government created an environment that was totally unreasonable for these businesses and defied our civil rights, as well as our right to make a living.

That said, I would like to encourage people to try and take the high road as much as possible regarding this issue. It is going to be much, much better for poker in general if we can all band together and take the appropriate steps to legalize poker and end our worries once and for all.

Most of us agree that the U.S. government is increasingly lost and almost entirely irrational. I used to think of the government as being populated by the best of us; now it seems we are going to have to act more maturely than those who govern us. It has come to this: online poker players are going to have to be the grown ups. For once we are going to have to do something more than type a rant on the interwebz.

I would suggest listening closely to the Poker Players Alliance. While some may be frustrated with their lack of accomplishments over the years — I know I have been. But the reality is they have a damn hard job and they are our best option. They are good people trying to do their best and I think it is going to be wise to support them in any way they ask.

Just as importantly, I also think it is going to be wise to still focus on improving your game as much as possible. In any chaotic environment like this, cooler heads will always prevail. Those who are acting like the sky is falling and aren’t looking for opportunity in this mess are going to be the ones who get hurt the most.

Former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel said, “Never let a crises go to waste,” and I agree.

If you are freaking out and canceling your training site memberships and assuming that because you can’t log in today, that you never will, I can PROMISE you that that is a mistake. Things will get resolved. I still believe poker is headed toward legalization.

What we do know is that when it is legalized, it will be more lucrative than it ever has before. And who do you think will get the lion’s share of that pie? The guy who panicked and stopped working on his game? Or do you think it will be the guy who decided that if others aren’t going to work on their games, he will, and when it comes back, he will be better than ever?

This isn’t rocket science. I know that when I was just starting out, I saw an opportunity to be really good. I saw that most poker players were complacent and didn’t treat their poker like a business. I saw that most people took time off when they were running well, and played epic long sessions when they were stuck and likely not playing their best. I saw that most didn’t save well and it hurt their ability to make more money because they couldn’t move up in stakes as fast. So I decided to treat my poker like a business long before I wrote a book by the same title . And because I took advantage of this opportunity, I can withstand this set back.

Let me tell you who I’m going to try to be, now that I’m no longer who I used to be. I am going to take whatever time away from online poker that we have to take my game to another level. I always felt that if I wasn’t consumed playing so many hands that I could study and get on a level with the top 5-10 poker players in the world. Maybe I’m nuts, but hey if you don’t have your dreams, you don’t have much of a chance. If I’m wrong, so be it.

So I am going to take a lot of time over the rest of this year and play around with tools like Poker Stove and Flopzilla and really break down the game of poker in a way that I have never before. And I think that I can go from where I am now to many levels beyond. If I’m taking steps to get better while others are going backwards, then that is a good situation for me regardless of my world ranking. There is no better time to try and improve than when others are not because that is when you make the most relative progress.

Think of it this way: For the past few years, trying to improve has been like trying to distance yourself from another person while you are both on an escalator. You can get ahead of the person before you, but not easily. But imagine if the other person got on the escalator going in the opposite direction. Now every step you take forward is twice as important because the other person is going backward.

A large chunk of the poker players are going to stop studying and will be hopping on that escalator going backwards. Now your study time means at least twice as much because when you go forward, they go backward. And remember, in poker we are measured only against the people we compete against. So this is a great chance to really distance yourself.

Will you be the one who goes backwards and likely never be heard from again in poker? Or will you be someone who seizes this opportunity to gain two steps for every one you take, and ultimately gets paid in the end? It’s your call.

I know which one I’ll be doing.

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Black Friday: What Happened, Why, and What it Means for Online Poker in the USA

Posted by Hunter Bick

Black Friday: What Happened, Why, and What it Means for Online Poker in the USA

I've been reading as much as I can about what happened on Black Friday to PokerStars, Full Tilt, and UB/Absolute Poker, and I see a ton of confusion and fear about the whole situation. Understandably, there are lots of questions and very few answers about the indictments, what they mean for online poker in the US and abroad, how the remaining sites can still operate, and the current legal situation in the US regarding online poker. Its pretty complicated stuff, so I'm going to break it down and hopefully make it easy to understand and get all the information in one place.

Before I dive in, I want to make it clear that I'm not a lawyer or a banker (my brief stint in corporate banking does not make me an expert), so this is information I have researched and put together, and reflects the understanding of someone who not only has been around online poker for 8 years, has been in the industry for 2, and who has closely followed the legal landscape for online poker in the US.
What happened on Black Friday?

PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, and UB/Absolute Poker were indicted on nine counts and their dot-com domain names were seized, and player funds for US players were frozen. 4 of these charges were UIGEA violations, 3 were for "Operation of an Illegal Gambling Business" (one count for each poker site), 1 count of conspiracy to commit bank and wire fraud, and 1 count for money laundering conspiracy. The 4 UIGEA charges and the 3 gambling charges all hinge on the presumption that poker is a game of chance and that poker is included in UIGEA, this is a very important point, and we'll get to that later. The UIGEA violations are fairly straightforward, they assert that the sites processed transactions for online gambling. The illegal gambling indictments rely on parts of the New York State Penal code for offering games of chance. The bank fraud and money laundering charges are very serious, and fairly cut and dry based on what I have read from lawyers commenting on the issue, if what is alleged is true, it doesn't look like Stars and FTP have much ground to stand on there. (Please see TeddyFBI's excellent cliff notes post on 2p2 here for more info on the details of the indictments).

Before Continuing, Some Basic Facts about the Legality of Online Poker in the USA:

1. It is NOT illegal to play online poker in the United States, except in the state of Washington. There is no Federal law that makes it illegal to play poker online.
2. As a player, it is NOT illegal to deposit or withdraw money from an online poker site while in the US, or as a US citizen.
3. The legal landscape for online poker in the US has NOT changed, its the same today as it was last Thursday, the day before Black Friday.
4. The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) does not mention poker players. It only mentions payment processing for financial institutions. It stipulates that financial institutions cannot lawfully process "unlawful internet gambling" transactions. However, the law never defines what "unlawful internet gambling" is, what games it applies to, nor does it provide any guidance whatsoever for what "unlawful internet gambling" even means.

Understanding Different Types of Banking Transactions Used by Poker Sites
The next two sections are boring but necessary parts of the story. To understand why the Big Three were indicted, we need to understand how the poker industry uses payment processing, and the type of processing The Big Three were engaged in and why that led to money laundering and bank fraud charges.

How Processing Usually works with Traditional Methods to Fund or Withdraw from a Poker Site (Post - 2006)

The Poker sites rely upon payment processors to handle the transactions with their players. These companies provide various banking services for the poker sites like debit card processing, issuing checks, collecting money from e-wallets, etc. These companies run the risk of DOJ seizures as they are committing UIGEA violations, so to shoulder that risk, they charge high fees to the poker sites. There have been several payment processor seizures in the last few years, and usually this led to the sites delaying withdrawals while they found a new processor willing to work with them. When a payment processor was seized, 99% of poker players never knew about it, because the sites would absorb the losses. This is why players would experience occasional problems with checks bouncing or withdrawal delays.

The benefit to the poker sites to using a processor is pretty straightforward. UIGEA targets the financial handling of gambling transactions, so the sites use payment processors as 3rd parties between them and the players, so that the sites would not handle their own processing and thus, would not be UIGEA targets. That's why up until Black Friday, any seizures related to online gambling were payment processors being shut down. The obvious problem emerges that as more and more payment processors got shut down, there were fewer of them willing to take the risk, and the people behind them got shadier and shadier, and they charged the sites more and more for their services. On top of that, the tremendous volume of money processing needed by The Big Three would automatically make any processor willing to work with them a target for the DOJ.
Since UIGEA, the traditional methods of deposit and withdraw methods have been paper checks, bank wires, e-wallets, cash transfers such as western union, and debit cards. There have been some other more obscure ways to do it like prepaid visas and prepaid phone cards as well.

Wires and Electronic Fund Transfers

These are the two basic types of electronic types of funds transfer, they look similar on the surface, but are very different. The first is standard bank wires, and these have not been a problem post-UIGEA. Wires are bank-to-bank transfers, and are what are used every day all over the world. They work internationally, are secure, and work for large amounts of money. They also come with high fees, usually $30 - $50 on each end. Because they are account to account, there is no transaction involved, so they do not require electronic coding to classify the nature of the transaction. This makes them a safe way for the site to collect from and distribute to Americans.

Now, the maximum wire deposit and funding options with the poker sites were usually very high, up to a million dollars if I am not mistaken. Of course the sites never put this in the cashier page, but they had VIP services available to high stakes customers for this purpose. So I don't know if they used processors for their 5-figure plus wire transfers or not (maybe someone can comment on this below), but I would not be surprised if their banking department handled this themselves, because of the very low risk of a wire transfer being identified as an internet gambling transaction, since there is no coding required or other information required. But it also is far too costly and cumbersome (each wire has to be manually inputted) for the mass of customers looking to deposit or withdraw an amount smaller than thousands of dollars. So its not a viable option for the masses of small stakes casual players who really drive the liquidity behind the big poker sites.

That brings us to the next type of electronic transfer that operates inside the ACH system (wires do not), and these commonly referred to as Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) or ACH transfers. EFTs are a newer form of electronic transfer, showing up in the last 10 years or so. These are what we use for everyday for electronic transfers like purchases, automatic mortgage or insurance payments, payroll payments, etc. That is a fundamental difference between EFTs and wires, with an EFT something is being purchased, wires are simple transfer of funds. These have become very common for smaller transactions, usually a few thousand dollars and less. Because there is always a transaction involved, EFTs require electronic coding to specify what type of transaction is taking place, per money laundering laws.

The advantages to EFTs are significant. They can be automated, so anyone with a bank account and routing number can use them and they require no manpower for the poker site(wires require manual inputting). They also are far cheaper than wires, usually being free on one end and costing less than a dollar on the other. Compare that to a total of $60 or more for a wire transfer. So they are cheap and they are easy, but they also require coding to designated the purpose of the transaction, AND THEY CAN ONLY BE USED DOMESTICALLY. Many countries have EFT systems like this, but they can only be used within each country, but you can't use an EFT to pay someone in another country for a purchase, a service, or anything else.

How The Big Three Used EFTs

If EFTs are starting to sound familiar to American online poker players, its because The Big Three were using eChecks as deposit options, and instant bank transfers as cashout options. These were EFT transfers that required a description code. Party Poker did this before UIGEA, but no other sites have attempted to use these transfers since UIGEA. Obviously there are major advantages for a poker site using EFTs. They are very cheap, they are relatively fast, they are easy, and all a customer needs to use them is a bank account and a routing number.

Instead of asking their customers to mail in checks, sign up for an e-wallet, try a debit card that probably won't work (thanks to the customer's financial institution), or do a western union to a random person in Indonesia, they could simply supply basic banking info, and be playing poker minutes later. So for the Big Three, there was serious upside to being able to offer EFT payments to US customers. As a poker site, the more money your players can get online, the more games you have and the more rake you collect. The upside is amplified when you can tap the world's biggest online poker market with a huge advertising budget, profit tremendously by offering easy payments, and then use the profit to dominate the international market.

However there's a couple problems. UIGEA prohibits "unlawful online gambling" transactions, and EFTs have to be coded. So what's the answer since you can't code an EFT "online poker?" Secondly, EFTs only work domestically, they have to processed inside the US for US customers. Clearly these are tough issues to circumvent for an offshore poker site; first the EFT needs to be disguised, and then there has to be company inside the US willing to intentionally disguise them.

So, to get around these obstacles, and this is what the DOJ alleges that they did, The Big Three apparently bought shares in a bank in Utah called SunFirst. In exchange for the liquidity that this bank probably needed after the financial crisis, and along with a cash bonus for the CEO, the bank agreed to handle the EFTs for American players AND agreed to intentionally mis-code the transactions as other items completely unrelated to online gambling, things like golf equipment and other random items that had nothing to do with online poker. That's where the money laundering conspiracy and bank fraud charges come from. The scheme to buy part of this bank and pay the CEO to do this is the conspiracy, and the mis-coding of the transactions is bank fraud. These are serious crimes no matter if you are a poker site or a charity for homeless animals. The experts who've weighed in on this tend to agree that the DOJ is not going to indict a company for money laundering and bank fraud if they don't have a very solid case, so these charges are likely bad news for these sites.

This is why these seizures are different from past seizures. This time the actual poker sites were the ones doing the processing because they owned shares of the bank that was processing and mis-coding the EFT payments. That makes all the difference in the world. Because they were disguising the intent of the EFT transactions and miscoding the transactions, they got hit with bank fraud and money laundering indictments. On top of that, the DOJ has an argument about UIGEA violations, and lastly, the illegal gambling charges were probably thrown for good measure.

What About the UIGEA and Gambling Indictments?

At first glance, it looked like Black Friday was all about a crackdown on online poker, that the UIGEA and gambling violations were the reasons The Big Three were indicted and had their domains seized. Most likely, the confusion arises because counts 1 through 7 were charges of UIGEA violations and operating an illegal gambling business. Counts 8 and 9 appear to be the crux of this case, but they easily got lost in the shuffle because the UIGEA and gambling indictments made this look like a big attack on online poker. However the story of an online poker crackdown doesn't make sense to me.

First, if these sites were indicted under UIGEA and other gambling laws, why hasn't this happened before? UIGEA was passed 5 years ago (has been enforceable for 10 months), and the gambling laws cited are much older than that.  If this was a case about offshore gambling companies serving US customers under the gambling laws cited in the indictments, why are these the first domain seizures of online, offshore gambling companies by the US Department of Justice?  Why didn't this happen sooner?   Next, why did it happen to poker companies instead of online casinos or sportsbooks?  Furthermore, if this was a UIGEA case, even though UIGEA has just become enforceable in the last 10 months, why would the DOJ target poker companies who have a stronger legal argument than casinos or sportsbooks?

After reading a lot of opinions by lawyers and people more expert than me on the law, it looks like the answer is because those are very difficult charges to prove. Remember in the beginning I said that these charges hinge upon the presumption that poker is a game of chance? Well the question of whether poker is a game of skill or a game of chance has never been litigated in federal court. There's obviously a good argument to be made that its a skill game. But more importantly though, UIGEA does not define "unlawful internet gambling," so whether or not poker even qualifies under UIGEA is another legal question that has not been litigated. These are not easy arguments for either side to make, and I've read repeatedly that the DOJ does not issue indictments for cases its at risk of losing or not getting a strong settlement out of. So it seems unlikely that the DOJ is going to the trouble and expense to indict billion dollar companies and seize their assets, when the laws being applied are on shaky legal grounds when it comes specifically to poker companies. Especially considering that such a case could end up in litigation for years.

So that brings us back to the questions one paragraph up. If the DOJ was going to issue indictments for UIGEA violations and gambling laws, then why not go after an online casino? Casino games have no argument for the skill versus chance debate since the house has a provable mathematical edge, so the UIGEA and gambling charges would be a much easier case for the DOJ. Why would they pick a poker company to indict under these laws when its a much harder argument and there is no legal precedent available to classify poker? That does not make sense... until you remember that The Big Three are accused of owning an equity stake in a US bank. Now they ARE guilty of all this stuff because they own a piece of a company that is processing gambling transactions (UIGEA) and now have US assets are offering gambling to Americans (State of NY gambling violations).  I don't think Black Friday would have happened without the alleged equity stake in SunFirst bank, that allows solid cases to be made on all charges.


After examining this situation, I'm now less upset at the government and more upset at the poker sites. If what they are accused of is true, then they took some big chances in order to reap the rewards and liquidity that easy EFT transfers brought their sites. We all agree UIGEA is one of the worst laws ever passed. Its hypocritical, its short-sighted, it was politically motivated, and it was an attack on our freedoms as Americans. But this wasn't about online poker or even UIGEA, it was about bank fraud and money laundering, two very serious crimes. Yes, Stars and FTP may have committed those acts in order to skirt a stupid law, but that doesn't make those actions acceptable, nor is it reasonable to expect a law enforcement agency to look the other way because a few million Americans enjoy playing online poker.

I also feel better knowing that the remaining US sites do not, and have not offered e-checks or other types of instant ACH transfers, since it seems very likely that is what made this happen. Black Friday was a very bad day and hopefully something positive emerges from it like favorable US legislation, but I don't see why it should stop Americans from playing online poker. The law has not changed, and its hard to see how Black Friday would have happened if The Big Three had not tried to skirt UIGEA by breaking other laws in order to offer easy ETF transactions to US customers.

None of the remaining US sites have offered this service post-UIGEA, and hopefully they have studied Black Friday and won't try to. I also anticipate that they will all be looking to keep a lower profile than the high-flying Full Tilt and PokerStars. Maybe this will make the games tougher, maybe it won't, we'll see. But we all want to keep playing online poker, even if that means making some adjustments to a different landscape or facing harder games. America is the biggest poker market in the world, twice the size of second place Canada, there will be games, and there will be ways to play them. The good news is that we can still play and we can do so with a solid expectation that this won't be happening again anytime soon, unless another site tries the same things The Big Three are accused of doing, which seems highly unlikely now that we've seen the consequences.

For more reading, particularly on the complete legislative history of online poker on the federal level, check out Nate Silver's excellent blog on the New York Times website.

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Live Poker

Posted by GiantBuddha

Back when the Neteller fiasco hijacked the online poker money train, I decided there was no way I was going to give up the game. I came up with a back up plan that can be summarized in two words: Live Poker.

The consensus among online professionals seems to be that live poker is either boring or torturous, depending on the cards and the company. I'll admit that there are a lot of negatives to playing poker in person:

  • Fewer hands per hour
  • No shorthanded tables
  • Smelly/obnoxious neighbors
  • Having to wear pants

I've played thousands of hours of live poker in my life, largely because I appreciate many of the positives:

  • More laid back
  • Weaker players
  • Physical tells
  • Interesting folks to meet in person
  • The feel of the cards
  • Dragging a big pot and stacking the chips
  • Carrying racks upon racks to the cashier
  • Getting paid in crisp hundred dollar bills

Now don't get me wrong, I haven't given up on playing online. Black Chip Poker looks like a solid option for the US player. But I'm not going to throw five figures back on to a site until things cool off a bit. For now I'll play a few sessions here and there. I'll be spending the majority of my working hours in casinos and card clubs, though. Playing live poker.

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Moving to Black Chip

Posted by zerosum79

With the recent events of last week obviously a lot of US players are looking for new homes. The threads online at 2+2 are abuzz with players considering moving to merge network. I did my research and the rakeback offer from Drag the Bar at Black Chip poker is unbeatable so I am making Black Chip my new home.

Since my account was only funded this morning I spent last night looking at some of the SNG games available there and the volume on Merge is low. However the influx of new US players should quickly remedy that situation. One intriguing game that I saw was the 18 player SNG's that start 6 handed on 3 tables and payout the top three positions. For a skilled player these games look like they could be juicy because they are top heavy in the payouts. However, they will likely create higher variance since they pay out one less player than the standard 18 man structure I have discussed in videos on FTP and PS. I love the idea of short handed 18 mans though because I can take advantage of some of the short handed NL Cash game skills I have been working on. I suspect that a player with good understanding of the blind battle dynamics and stealing will have a field day with these games. Look for a video on this topic in the coming month.

Anyways, you know you can't go wrong when DTB's own Owen Gaines is one of their online pros and they are partnered with a great site like DTB. I highly recommend checking out Black Chip!


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Worried about the US Situation? [Advice]

Posted by Jared Tendler

For the last three plus years since I’ve been in poker, the threat of online poker going away has been a fear that I’ve talked about with many of my clients. Mostly, we were talking about it because it was affecting their performance at that time, but we were also planning for this possibility.

In the panic that often sets in after such a shocking announcement, it can be hard to be objective. I hope this post can help you to be better at figuring out what to do, rather than getting overwhelmed by fear, confusion, and uncertainty.

It's hard to know what this means, but I do think it's important to avoid speculating or get caught up listening to others who are doing it. Stay tuned into facts, listen to credible people, and do what you think is best. It's easy to think only of the absolute worst case, and on one level it can be smart to prepare for that possibility, it also many not be the most helpful when ultimately figuring out what you need to do. Try to brainstorm some options so you're prepared to make decisions as more information becomes certain and avoid making premature definitive conclusions.

This situation is different for each of you. Your circumstances in life, mean that what you need right now is different – so I’m going to post a few general ideas/thoughts that I’ve had and see which fits best. I’m happy to expand on any of these, answer any questions, and help in any way I can.

Dealing with Fear

Part of what makes fear so difficult, it that like tilt, it overwhelms your ability to think clearly. The thinking part of your brain can’t do its job because it’s overwhelmed with emotion. Instead, whatever thoughts you do have ripping through your head have a hard time settling down. Images of the worst, uncertainty about your future, and how you’re going to make money cause more anxiety because there are no answers.

The antidote to fear is an answer you are certain about.

That may sound overly simplistic, but think about it logically, if you knew without a doubt, that you’d have all your money and online poker would be regulated in the US within 1 month, you would have nothing to fear.

Right now you’re looking for answers. The problem is that some of you are so desperate for answers you’ll listen to almost anything or anyone. That desperation is very similar to feeling desperate to win. You’ll do almost anything to shake this feeling because the uncertainty is almost too much to handle.

The reality is that there aren’t many answers out there right now. If you try to force an answer too soon, you’ll be making the same mistake if you were forcing the action because you need to win money right now. You have to stick to a sound and logical strategy.

Of course, there is no playbook for this spot. There is no equity calculations you can run to figure out what the best thing is for you to do. However, I do know how to help you figure out what is in your best interest. It’s going to take some work on your part. There are no easy answers right now, but you can make the situation a lot easier by following my advice. Eventually, this shit storm is going to turn into something positive for those of you who can see the opportunity that’s present right now. It is hard to see, especially when your vision is clouded by fear, but it’s there.

The one that’s most obvious is learning how to be resilient (I wrote a blog about this recently). The economic downturn that rocked the world three years ago, forced millions of people into a similar situation that you’re in, and thousands of them found ways to succeed through tough times. Learn from them. And perhaps more importantly, learn from the people who haven’t succeeded. Their story is a cautionary one and if you learn from what they didn’t do, or the mistakes they made, you’ll be in a better position to capitalize on this situation.

Bottom line: This isn’t a tragedy like the Tsunami in Japan. No poker players died yesterday. In the game of life you still have chips on the table. Your stack took a hit, but you’re not busto. You’re a smart group of people, you’re going to be fine. Is this going to be hard, absolutely. Some of you facing difficulty for the first time, but:

“Necessity…the mother of invention” - Plato

You’ll figure something out. You’ll get through it, and will be stronger mentally for it. I’ve had a bunch of thoughts the past 24 hours, here are a few things I’ve come up:

1. Book Excerpts.

I wasn’t planning on releasing any excerpts of the Fear chapter of my book, because tilt was a much bigger issue. Amazing how that can change in one day.Click here to view excerpts of the fear chapter - there's also a link there where you can download it. You need this now more than ever, and I think can really help you to focus on what’s most relevant right now.

2. Write.

(In the excerpts, I go into this more.) The biggest problem with fear, is that it can run wild if left unchallenged. Whether it’s just in your mind or in a group of players yacking about the situation, if you get caught up in a wave of fear, it becomes easy to lose all sense of objectivity, and you’ll make poor decisions.

What do you write about? Very simply write what’s on your mind. The way to get you thinking more clearly is to clear out the shit in your head. Write what you’re specifically worried/fearful about? What your biggest fears are? The thoughts, ideas and questions in your head. The mind is limited by how much you can think about at one time. Writing helps you dig through all the things in your head so you can think clearer.

Most importantly, try to identify the questions that are underlying your fear, and that you’re trying to answer. Subconsciously, that’s what the fear is really all about, and the first step is to determine specifically what questions you need answered.

  • What am I going to do for a job?
  • What if all my money is gone?
  • How am I going to live?
  • What are all my friends going to think?
  • Should I move overseas?
  • Should I play live?

The antidote to fear is an answer. Right now it’s impossible to know definitively what that answer is, and you’ll make the situation worse by trying to know definitively. Instead, gather information so you can pull the trigger when it’s time for you to act.

I wasn’t planning on releasing any excerpts of the Fear chapter of my book, because tilt was a much bigger issue. Click here to download excerpts of the fear chapter that I think can really help you to focus on what’s most relevant right now and what’s most likely going to help.

3. F*** regret.

I know there are some of you out there who are pissed you didn’t play more, didn’t work as hard, didn’t do X, Y, and Z. You had a window of opportunity and not it seems closed. The situation is hard enough as it is, do not get yourself bogged down thinking about the what ifs. The major reason is because it keeps you living in a fantasy. A fantasy world where you can dream about something positive. It’s a waste of time and energy, and makes you less prepared to make real decisions.

Its sucks right now. I’m not here to blow sunshine up your ass. I don’t think that’s useful. I’m here reminding you that there is opportunity out there, and it’s only going to show up for the ones who are actually dealing with reality rather than hiding in a fantasy to avoid how they feel.

4. Like the NFL Lockout.

Poker isn’t going away. There’s no chance a multi-billion dollar/year industry disappears. Instead, this period reminds me of the lockout going on in the NFL. There are hundreds of pro football players wondering when they’re going to get back to playing. Not all of them are rich btw. Of course there are those at the top, who want to get back to doing what they love and have no worries about money. But there are many of the marginal players who are in a much different situation.

I heard an interview from one player today on ESPN. He said that he’s going to keep working hard so he’s ready when the lockout ends. I realize the situation is very different, but some of you can take his advice. Keep working. Online poker will come back. When it does, will you be ready?

Even if you get a job and never play a hand of poker before online poker is regulated, your mental game issues aren’t going to change unless you work on them. The cool thing about the mental game is that you can work on it in other areas of your life. Sure poker may make these issues worse, but they tend to show up in other areas of life in smaller ways. If you’re new to my blog, there are many articles on here to read, old blogs, and forum posts.

5. December Blackout.

Last Nov/Dec there was a lot of chatter about the 18 month blackout in online poker if the Reid bill would have passed. At that time, you and others had thought – many of the probably very good – about how you would handle it. This situation has it’s obvious differences – so the planning/ideas you had then may not apply exactly. But, another difference between then and now is the level of panic, which ultimately has a direct impact on your level of sanity.

If you want a dose of sanity revisit the threads that popped up then, either to remind yourself of things that you wrote, or others. There’s a lot more clarity in figuring out what you’re going to do in those posts than in the threads right now.

6. Transferable Skills.

Some of you are going to have to get new jobs. It’s a reality. One thing I talked to clients about every time we discussed their fear of poker disappearing is transferable skills: the skills you learned in poker, that transfer to other professions. There are many of them, some completely unrecognized.

The biggest one is that you’ve been running a small business. It’s often under appreciated that you have to be the one making all the decisions about how you make money, and you have to be your primary asset that makes money. In other words, you’re a player/owner. It would be like the owner of the Yankees also playing. An extreme example yes, but think about all the different things you had to do to be profitable:

Decide what games to play. How long to play for. How to get yourself ready to play at your best. Decide what you do to improve. How long to study vs. play. Who to get help from. And none of this has anything to do with the actual decisions being made at the table.

There was no boss standing over you telling you to play. You were accountable to yourself. That’s hard. Not everyone can do it, and it’s a major reason why some players really struggle to get in enough volume.

If you made money playing poker, you ran a successful business. Figure out specifically how you did it. Being successful is something you can learn, and the traits are similar across professions. Identify the ones you have and know them well. They are the ones that you’re going to carry with you to your next profession.

Also look back on your time in poker and identify specifically what the steps were that you took to become a skilled player. There are a lot of things you did well. Have them written down so you know what steps you’re going to need to take to learn you’re next profession. Also, identify the mistakes that you made along the way, and be ready to fix those mistakes.

From the mental side of the coin, many of you have broken through a lot of the things that have kept you from having success in other things. Expect these same issues to come up again. Even though you eliminated them in poker, they are often connected to task specific skill. Meaning if you become an equity trader, go into sales, or another job, the same mental game issues will pop back up. Not usually to the same degree, but enough that if you aren’t prepared, could cause troubles.


This post became a lot longer than I expected, but I had a lot of thoughts on this today. I’m sure I’ll have more thought soon and will post them as I have them. If you have questions for me, my forum has is spotty. Send me your question via the contact form here, and I’ll either respond via email, or if it’s a question that I think can help others I’ll post it to my blog.

Do what you have to do to stay objective.


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Don’t Forget About Freedom This Time

Posted by James Davis

I haven't blogged in ages, but the recent events have me here ready to roll.

The DOJ going after the three major sites is not an outrage.  They've been telling us they were going to do this since 2007.  We just didn't believe they'd be able to do it. We were comfortable with a status quo for so long, ignoring the implications of the UIGEA and keeping the obvious gun in the room under a curtain.

Perhaps now people will see what the UIGEA really meant. It was a personal attack on our freedom as human beings. A political power play to restrict ways that Americans can spend their own hard earned and overtaxed money.  The government gave us the middle finger, and we scattered like cockroaches.

We dealt with the interest free theft of our money in the Neteller situation.  We dealt with a direct attack on our earning power. But that isn't even half of the problem. The problem is that the government looked us in the eye and said,
"You there. The one doing a completely victimless act. The one playing a game with other grownups who know the rules before they play. The one who gambles in a game of skill in a way that is legal in several states. The one who makes a fraction of the money off of gambling that the state does.  YOU CAN NO LONGER DO THIS! WE DEMAND A MONOPOLY ON GAMBLING!"

And what did we do? We had modest outrage, and then we just found ways to subvert the intent of their law.  As poker players, we(myself included) should be ashamed of taking that lying down.  As human beings, we cowered like children before an abusive father holding a belt.  Our fellow Americans scoffed at us since our enterprise wasn't mainstream, and ignored this injustice altogether.  For more examples, see:  how gay people's rights are treated, immigration laws, civil rights laws until they were changed, a woman's right to vote - the right to play poker is relatively small here.
But we have ourselves to blame.  The gun was in the room the whole time - the only thing that has changed is that it has been unveiled.  The issue is that these government run monopolies have been moralizing for our families and passing and enforcing laws that they say are for our betterment when they are BLATANTLY to line their own pockets.  Liquor licenses, gambling licenses, tobacco's not for your good.  As a poker player, hopefully you see that now.

But I BEG you.  When the US regulates poker and FTP, PS, and UB or whomever are on the outside looking in as far as "obtaining a license."  And you are back to making big bucks - sitting on your yacht - milking American fish while you and the government both get rich off of legalized and regulated poker in the US.  I BEG you not to forget the lesson learned here recently.

The government is not there to ensure your freedom.  The government is a profit making enterprise.  They don't care about stopping our earning potential so they can scratch the backs of their lobbyists.  They don't care about freezing the funds of families who might REALLY need the money sometime soon.  When you are rich from poker when it is finally regulated - don't THANK the government for giving you back your freedom.

They are using our tax money to buy something we most certainly do not approve of. It doesn't matter if 51% of people want this. We don't. We are human beings, and our say matters beyond the tyranny of the 51% majority(or in this case, the whims of a lame duck govt. official who would have his own political means reached on a rider to bill). Have Americans ever even voted on this issue? Do average Americans even care if we play?

Poker is not a big deal. It's a niche market.  People playing poker or not isn't the point. The point is that they are shrugging their shoulders at us and saying, "We really don't care what you want. We don't care about tying up your money, stopping your earning power, or you, really."  If that is representative government, I must not know what representative means.  This isn't a precedent, either.  It's common practice. I just hope that I don't hear a single "thank you" to any government official when poker is regulated to make them money.   I don't want people making excuses for government theft and coercion in the future. I don't want any rationalization or moralization of government action.
A business's unstated first priority is self-preservation.  The government is acting to preserve itself and make money. Nothing more, nothing less.

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Poker Career update

Posted by ChipsFool

It's been a while since I updated about my journey of playing full time poker.

To be honest my first month didnt go quite as I had wished for. I think I originally set my expectations too high. However things weren't all that bad. I managed to make around 2.5x my previous salary. A lot of that was rakeback and tournament winnings....I was actually slightly down for the cash games for the month but since then I have made some key adjustments and they have improved quite significantly.

I am also playing a lot of PLO now. I would suggest that you all have a look at the PLO games. The standard of pay is far weaker plus you rakeback even more even though you are playing less hands per hour. I have played PLO for years, mainly live, so I do feel I have an edge over most at my level, but I see improvements in my game day in day out right now so definitely plan on continuing playing it. I am mainly playing 12-14 tables at a time, usually split 50-50 between NLHE and PLO.

I know to some of you this must sound silly mixing both games at the same time and playing as many tables but so far so it is working out well. Obviously playing more tables than I used to has mean't my holdem game has tightened up with my VPIP dropping by around 5%. Studying a few of Leatherass' videos has really helped me to play solid multi tabling poker. I was way too bluffy before in bad spots and calling from the blinds way too often, now I am just not getting myself into as many tricky situations.

This month I also added a new weekly goal. I want to play x amount of SNGs and MTTs each week. SO far I am having decent success in both. My best result being 3rd in a tourney for $811. It should have been a lot more though. I had 65% of chips in 3 handed play. 1st was $2200. I got the guy 2nd in chips all in with KK v 99 on a Q76rb flop only for it to go 8, T for a runner runner. 2 hands later I run AQ into AK and the rest is history. That's the frustration of tournament poker I suppose.

Outside of poker I am trying to eat a good balanced diet as well as trying to work out several times each week. A healthy body = a healthy mind = + EV in both poker and life. It is so good to be able to plan my week ahead, knowing I don't have to wake up at 7am and get the train to work everyday, seeing friends as and when I want (as long as I am putting the hours in online ofcourse). Life is so much better.

Good luck at the tables everyone!


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Order The Mental Game of Poker Today!

Posted by Jared Tendler

After nearly two years of work, I’m excited to announce the launch of The Mental Game of Poker. To order the book, visit Purchase before April 27, and take advantage of a 20% discount.

This 242 page, soft cover book is comprehensive, while at the same time being straightforward and user friendly. It demystifies a lot of common wisdom, and gives you step-by-step instructions to produce lasting improvement in the most important mental game areas: tilt, fear, motivation, and confidence.

Poker is tougher than ever. The mental game is the next place to gain an edge. If you don’t see how much value there is to improving your mental game, just think about how much issues like tilt have cost you in the past. The book will pay for itself in no time!

On the website, you’ll find more details, including excerpts, a trailer, and stories from the nine clients featured. The first review is in…click here to read it!

The book is scheduled to complete printing the last week of April and will ship out immediately once it’s done. If you any have questions you can post them in my thread here.

Now is the time to take your mental game head on, order The Mental Game of Poker today!

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Legal Online Poker… ONE TIME!

Posted by zerosum79

It’s hard not to get excited when within just a few days not only is Steve Wynn getting behind federally regulated online gambling but then the CEO from Caesars Entertainment piles on as well…

Legal On-Line Poker Would Boost Liquidity: Caesars CEO

In this article the CEO of Caesars mentions that they are working with Nevada state legislators to draft legislation for online state regulated gambling. Obviously intrastate (within one state only) gambling is not really the panacea that most online players are looking for because the player pool will be small for any given state. DC also recently announced that it can start online gambling and these two intrastate measures are really a great start, especially if they can start bundling player pools similar to how PowerBall or MegaMillions does with the lottery.

However, the really great news from this article comes from the CEO’s (Loveman’s) statement that… "We're advocates of this being legalized on a federal level because the state by state process is quite a cumbersome one ... in poker you need liquidity," Loveman explained. "You need a lot of players who want to play a game at a certain level, at a certain time and the best way to do that is to have a federal mandate."

This is huge! Not only is B&M getting on board they are getting on board the right way, after years of blocking our right to play poker online, we are getting a complete 180 degree turnaround.

I am so excited about this turn of events. The PPA narrowly missed getting legislation introduced last year to legalize online poker at the federal level. Getting the B&M folks backing us could easily swing this thing into reality and soon, with much less restrictive measures in place. The one downside to all this is that I would speculate that the poker sites that we play at are likely to have a much harder time getting their foot in the door if the B&M folks want to crowd them out of the market. But it finally looks like we have gotten dealt AA and someone just raised us from early position. Now all we need is for our hand to hold up! I am now officially using my ONE TIME DEALER!


PS. Hopefully John Kyl’s recent fiasco over how much funding of planned parenthood goes to giving abortions has shown the world that he completely lacks credibility and will keep this idiot from imposing his social agenda over our freedoms.

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Leatherass on Poker Podcast 4/14/11: Going Mental

Posted by Leatherass

On our most recent LeatherPod, we talk with mental game coach Jared Tendler, a fellow DTB instructor and author of the much-anticipated new book, “The Mental Game of Poker.” A brilliant guy, he helps answer many of the burning between-the-ears questions listeners have been sending me since the inception of the podcast.

Early in his career, Jared worked with golfers, so he’s perfectly qualified to comment on the psychology we saw on stage at this week’s Masters and relate what poker players can learn from it.

From there we talk about these topics:

*Distinguishing variance from poor performance

*The characteristics all winning poker players have, and what all losing players have in common.

*Developing the winning skill

*Rationalizing variance, particularly as stakes go up and dollars increase.

*Making the decision to play through or stop when you’ve got something less than your A Game working

*Compartmentalizing a losing day so you can enjoy the rest of your life.

To find out more about Jared, go to

Here’s the podcast. If you’d like to have this podcast emailed to you in MP3 format, please just send us an email at

WE'RE EXCITED ABOUT OUR BIG GAME PROMOTION: Anyone who buys a book on my site between now and Sunday is eligible for a drawing to win 1% of my total prize money from Big Game V, April 15-17 at Dusk Till Dawn poker club in Nottingham, UK.

10 more of you will take home a book of your choice from the site.

PLUS between now & Sunday, anyone who enters the coupon code BIGGAME will get 20% off all purchases on For more discussion, please go to my Facebook page.

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Getting Your Game Ready For Legalization

Posted by Leatherass

Hey everyone,

As you know, our goal is to get you good content each day. It might be stuff that I write or stuff that others contribute, but in any case this is a fun venture and we hope it's useful to you.

Please remember to log on to my Facebook page, where we post new content, as well as discuss hands of the day (mine and yours) and answer/debate questions of the day. I'm also putting stuff out in smaller bites on Twitter.

Finally, if you'd like our podcast emailed to you in MP3 format, please just send an email to

As always, if you're interested in my books, you can get them here.

On with the show ... Thanks!



NASCAR racing is the gold standard in America for fan attendance, with races drawing upwards of 150,000 spectators.

How popular is online poker? On a given Wednesday afternoon, the number of players logged on to PokerStars exceeds 300,000. Even as the economy has fallen, interest in online poker has risen. And it’s accomplished despite online poker remaining in a legal netherworld in the United States. That’s like Lebron James averaging a triple-double for the season while playing with a broken leg.

Online poker is bigger than it’s ever been, yet it’s present audience is probably smaller than it will ever be.

Should online poker become legal in the United States — and the indications lately are that it will — it could have a seismic affect on the game. How much the total audience would grow is anyone’s guess, but it would surely inject the game with new blood. The biggest step forward occurred when PokerStars formed an alliance with Las Vegas hotelier Steve Wynn to advocate for legalization. Wynn has the ear of Senator Harry Reid, who has championed poker legislation in the past. Now the offshore businesses are aligned with the on-shores, providing some much-needed momentum to the movement.

As is the case in most things, you need only follow the money to see the way things are trending. Someone with Wynn’s clout wouldn’t invest himself in such a partnership were he not certain that poker legalization was imminent. He’d not put his interest, time and personal equity behind this endeavor were he not abundantly sure of its eventual success.

Should online poker be sanctioned, it could be a full-scale land rush. This might be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity — and this is coming from a guy who in an earlier column said that online poker may never be harder than it is now. While I said it was a great time to get in if you wanted to supplement your income or perhaps replace your so-so income by doing something you actually care about, I actively discouraged people from throwing themselves into poker if they had dreams of becoming wildly rich. For a variety of reasons I felt the poker economy was struggling.

As a result, I was focused on making as much as I could, as fast as I could. If my business had an expiration date on it, I wasn’t going to invest much in the future.

But if your business is suddenly granted a huge contract — which is essentially what legalization would do — and that contract indicates you’ll have a job for the rest of your working days with huge performance incentives, you’d be advised to shift your emphasis to research and development. You should be laying the groundwork for the future, as opposed to just making money now.

I’ve become much more optimistic because of this pending legalization. I could not have given this advice in good conscience six months ago, but today I can say that if you have an inkling toward making serious money at poker, now is the time to make your move.

How can you prepare yourself for what appear to be boom days ahead?

If you’re considering poker as a career or serious income stream, my advice is this: Quite simply, you need to play, then play some more. There are probably 12-18 months until the online game is fully legislated in the U.S. You need to take advantage.

I know that sounds simplistic, but it’s true. Many of us study poker theory and immerse ourselves in instruction sites and forums, preparing ourselves for the day we eventually commit to the game. Well, my friends, that time has come. You need to get out of your head and onto the virtual felt. You need to regiment yourself, and get yourself on a steady diet of tables. You need to make your game instinctive.

Again, that sounds obvious. But why do you think baseball players spend hours taking batting practice and 30 minutes watching video? Why do you think Kobe Bryant takes a thousand jumpers every day, as opposed to having a coach diagram his jumper on a chalkboard? Why do you think Tiger Woods hits 500 balls on the range rather than watch his swing on tape for five hours?

It’s about repetitions, and poker is no different.

Much of my ability to win at poker is related to raw experience. I’ve played nearly 10 million hands. I know that when someone check-calls the flop and check-raises the turn that it is a really powerful, underutilized play that weak players will use to try to trap you for two bets before they sneak in a check-raise.

You rarely ever see a check-call on the flop and a check-raise on the turn as a bluff. The only way I know that is because I’ve played so many hands.

If you’re someone who’s working a day job but wants to become a poker player someday, I would suggest apportioning your money into three categories: 1) Education. Choose the game at which you feel you can best succeed, find a coach who’s done well at that game, and then actively watch his videos and read his books. 2) Present bankroll to get repetitions at small-stakes games. Get comfortable with the software and the ebb and flow of the games. 3) Future bankroll. I advocate having enough money for 100 buy-ins before you move up in stakes, though that number is for full-time players. Adjust accordingly if you plan to be a serious part-time player.

My advice is a little difference if you’re already taking the game seriously, in which case less might be more.

If you’re presently an online pro or part-time pro, you need to focus on improving your game now more than ever. Scrub your game free of bad habits. If you’re playing 12-16 tables, now might be a really good time to drop down and really scrutinize the way you play. Take notes actively as you play and write down the situations and opponents that are giving you a hard time. When you sit down to play the next day, devote an hour to reviewing those notes, looking for common denominators among your problem areas. Either figure out how to correct those issues, or ask for help.

Right now I’m concerning myself with improvement, and am less focused on income for 2011. I’m willing to drop down to 6-8 tables if that means I evolve as a player. My simple goal is that on Jan. 1, 2012, I’ll look back on today and laugh at how little I knew about the game.

My advice is to make your goal the same.

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Presale Starts Next Week

Posted by Jared Tendler

After nearly 2 years of work, I'm excited to announce that I'll start taking pre-orders on the book next week. The Mental Game of Poker will sell for $49.95, but you can take advantage of a 20% discount during the two week pre-sale (released the week of April 25th) and be the first to have it in your hands.

The book is 237 pages of the best instruction I've come up with over the last 3+ years in poker. My goal when I set out to write it was to create a resource that would give players the ability to make dramatic improvements in their game without ever talking to me. I won't know for several months whether the book will deliver on that promise, but I'm really proud of what I've written.

It's comprehensive while at the same time being really straightforward and user friendly. It demystifies a lot of common wisdom that doesn't produce the type of lasting solutions that you need, and provides a step-by-step strategy to improving the most important mental game issues out there: tilt, fear, motivation, and confidence.

There's a lot about the book that I'm excited about, a big one, is who else you're going to hear from. I'm really fortunate to have great people as clients and these nine players bring the material to life by sharing their story and what they learned as a client:

Dusty “Leatherass” Schmidt
Niman “Samoleus” Kenkre
Liz “RikJamesB1atch” Herrera
Matt “mbolt1” Bolt
Jordan “iMsoLucky0” Morgan
Mike “Syous” Song
Pascal “Stake Monster” Tremblay
Sean Gibson,Poker News Daily
Barry Carter, Poker Journalist and co-author

Details on where you can go to purchase the book, as well as excerpts will be available next week. In the meantime, check out the Table of Contents.

TMGP is written in a way that you can either read it straight through, or jump around to sections that are linked (pages numbers provided) and choose your own adventure in a sense. It's a resource that will give you the information to bring your mental game up to the same level as your poker game. For some of you, that's a pretty scary proposition. Just imagine what your game would be like if your mental game was just as strong as your skills at the table. The book will pay for itself in no time.

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Giving It Away For Free

Posted by Leatherass

About six weeks ago, I got this post on my Facebook page: "Dusty, You used to have such awesome stuff on your page. But now we only hear from you when you have something to sell."

He was right.

I'd been feeling I'll at ease about my interactions with all of you for a little while, but it took that post to put words to my thoughts.

I write books because I love to teach. But the act of publishing them had me feeling like less of a teacher, and more of a marketer. That relationship never sat easily with me.

I'm just like all of you: I started with nothing and managed to build something. Be you a competitor of mine, a Facebook friend, a Tweep or a fan, I have always considered you a peer. I treasure that relationship; that community. More than anything, I love teaching. It's something that comes naturally to me, and I love the feeling of adding value to someone's life through my words and thoughts.

A writer named Simon Sinek wrote, "In life, it's not what you do. It's why you do it."

What do I do? In addition to poker, I write and publish books.

But why do I do it? Because I love to teach.

I treasure the fulfillment I get from writing and publishing books; and, yes, I value the monetary value those books might create in my life someday. There's nothing wrong with that — we poker players are all capitalists, after all. But I don't want to write them if it requires me to be less teacher and more marketer.

So I took some time to prioritize and thought about how I could put "why I do it" ahead of "what I do."

Going forward, what I'm going to do is "lead with content." For me, the act of writing will be more like putting out a daily newspaper, and less like putting out a quarterly magazine. I won't go underground to write a book, only to emerge six months later to tell you over and over that I've done so. Like it or not, from this day forward, you won't be able to shake me.

In one form or other, I'll be giving you free poker content every day. Hopefully you'll find it valuable. This content will appear in this space, on my own website, and on Facebook and Twitter.

This is going to include frequent blogs and columns, both from me and a group of amazing guest writers; daily instruction; frequent podcasts with some killer guests; Q & A's with prominent members of the poker community; and previews of book content delivered in real time as we write it. Even better, much of this content will be dynamic, giving you the chance to comment, critique and ask questions.

This content will be produced daily, and it will all be free.

Here's what we'll be producing (and hopefully you'll be reading or listening):

*Between 4-6 columns and blogs every week, if not more, offering real-time commentary, instruction and more. In this space will also appear Q&A's with prominent figures in the poker community.

*Frequent podcasts featuring commentary, insight and instruction, as well as top guests from the poker field. (Yes, this show will ultimately be on iTunes. But right now we're working out the kinks. Right now the podcast is hosted on my blog at But if you'd like the podcast mailed to you as an MP3 file, please send an email to

*A "Hand of the Day," which will appear each day on my Facebook page and blog. I'll allow you to weigh in on a hand I played, then I'll jump in with my own thoughts. We've been doing this for a few weeks and I think people really enjoy it. We've also had "Guest Hands of the Day," where someone else sends in a hand, and my friends and I give it a critique. (To send one in, direct it to

*A "Question of the Day," which will take the same form as the daily hand. This is a great way for me to answer the many poker questions I typically receive each day. This will also appear on my Facebook page.

*Guest content from some top poker minds, including:

*Jared Tendler. Jared is the preeminent mental coach in poker. His instruction led to profound breakthroughs for me and a host of poker colleagues. He is a leading edge thinker and an instructor at Jared has a new book coming out called "The Mental Game of Poker," which we'll be excerpting.

*Paul Hoppe. As many of you know, Paul co-wrote "Don't Listen To Phil Hellmuth" with me, and is one of the best poker minds I know. This is someone for whom I have tremendous respect, and you will, too. Paul also wrote the brilliant "Way of the Poker Warrior," which we'll be excerpting.

*Matt Reilly. Matt helped grow a business to approximately $500 million in revenue before selling it, and now works with CEOs of Fortune 500 companies on strategic issues of global significance. An accomplished writer himself, Reilly has been published in the Wall Street Journal, and cited in the Harvard Business Review and the Financial Times. This guy is smart, cool (though our politics don't always agree!), credible, and takes treating your poker like a business to an MBA level.

*Owen Gaines. Someday soon, Owen is going to be huge. He is an instructor at, as well as the author of two amazing books, "Poker Math That Matters" and "Hole Card Confessions," both of which will be available on this site Friday. He is a great soul whose content you will value immensely.

*Nicole Breazeale Schmidt: Nicole has a Master's in conflict resolution, and is an expert in the field of relationships. We all know that online poker creates complications in other areas of our lives. Nicole will help us negotiate that terrain with original content, as well as previews from her forthcoming book, "Suited Pairs." Not only is she a gifted writer, she's beautiful, too. (And I'm not saying that because she's my wife.)

*We'll have a recurring post called "Expected Value," which applies the EV concept to non-poker events, like marriage, religion, children, etc. You know, the small stuff ...

*Perhaps nearest and dearest to my heart is that I'm working on two books right now, "Treat Your Poker Like A Business 2" and "Raise," which is an autobiography that tells my crazy story from beginning to end. TYPLAB 2 takes the original TYPLAB and dives in to a much deeper level. Whereas the first gave you broad concepts, the next will take you on a very specific progression. I really, really think you're going to love it. I had a simple rule about writing a follow up to TYPLAB, which was that I wouldn't do it unless I could to a better book. I think we're on the road to doing just that, and I'll be previewing " TYPLAB2" and "Raise" on months before it appears in book form. The same goes for "Raise" content.

There are no strings attached here; no hidden angle or agenda. I love teaching, and I want to do it every day. I'd also love to create an online community without the negativity that some others provide, and I want to participate in that community every day.

There is a great deal of poker content out there in the world, and I'm flattered that you might value mine. The best way to access this is to sign up for my Facebook page and Twitter feed. That way you'll get real-time updates as they happen. Please also bookmark this blog, as it's where most of this content will appear.

Looking forward to it!

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How to Level the Gender Divide in Poker

Posted by hotjenny314

Recently a heated debate in 2+2's That's What She Said forum (in which I recently became a mod :) ) sparked me to write an article for Woman Poker Player Magazine.  Hope you Enjoy!

Music, Writing, and Poker

Posted by GiantBuddha

It's tax season again and Uncle SAM wants his money like Teddy KGB. That means all work and no play. Lately work has meant playing a decent amount of No Limit Holdem mixed in with my regular Limit games. Things have gone well in that department, and playing another game is a breath of fresh air.

Never one to be a dull boy, I've been hard at work in the studio and at the keyboard. Villain's Lament (my band) recorded our first disc a few weeks ago, and we've got a show coming up next Wednesday. We finally got our website in action, too -

After the show (and tax day), I'll be starting a flash fiction series. In the spirit of democracy (and audience pleasing), I've set up a poll on where you can vote on what sort of series I should start first. I'm thinking one of the following themes:

  • Poker vignettes
  • Film noir mysteries
  • Supernatural suspense
  • Real life stories & lessons

    What's flash fiction? It's basically a very short story format. Each story has character, setting, and plot, but should fall in the 200 to 1000 word range. Ideally, it's a quick, compelling read. The stories may be linked in some fashion, but not quite like consecutive scenes in a novel.

    Speaking of Rounders 2, does anyone really think that's a good idea? I'd love to see another great poker movie, but how often do "sequel" and "great" appear in the same sentence? Godfather II? Can't think of another off the top of my head.

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  • Podcast, 4/6/11: My Set-Up

    Posted by Leatherass

    Over the years, I’ve been accused of having a supercomputer or some sort of proprietary software. By far, one of the questions I get asked the most is, “What specifically is your set-up?” In this week’s podcast, I pull back the veils and tell you exactly how I’ve got things rigged.

    More importantly, I tell you about the biggest change I’ve made with respect to technology this year and how it’s really helped me.

    First, a couple housekeeping notes:

    *Many of you have asked when the pod will be up on iTunes. We are very close, but want to work a few bugs out before we launch. Until then, if you’d like to have an MP3 version of this pod emailed to you, just drop us a note at

    *The pod refers to a big announcement coming today. That’ll actually happen Thursday.

    *You’ll find an outline for the podcast and a new blog below.

    Enough talk. Here's the podcast.

    Our structure for the podcast is as follows:

    1.Weighing Sunday tourneys vs. cash games exclusively.
    2. Why Tom Dwan is dipping, and why he doesn’t care.
    3.What the Zygna offensive tells me about the next 12 months.
    4. My personal experience with Luke “Full Flush” Schwartz. My opinion of him? It rhymes with “A Complete Rick.”
    5. My Hardware/Software setup, and the single biggest technological change I’ve made this year.
    6. How to prepare when going from online to live.
    7. My Masters sleeper pick.


    Here is the new blog:

    I had another rough Sunday in the Poker Stars tournaments. Not to sound like a broken record, but man does it amaze me how many of those things you can play and not have anything good happen! I guess I just thought after 5 months of playing Sundays that I would at least final table something that is important. I am going to re think playing these things as was my plan for the year. I hate to give up on something, but at the same time, I don’t want to waste a year’s worth of Sundays playing 12 hour tournament days just to lose money. I guess what I will probably end up doing is sticking it out through the SCOOP and the WSOP this summer, and then make a decision. Maybe I am just meant to be a cash game player forever. It’s certainly starting to look that way.

    The last 2 days I spent hanging with my wife and daughter. I took my daughter on a little date which we have begun doing recently as she has gotten a little older. We usually go to the zoo or the museum and have a great time. She is a lot of fun to be around because she has a great personality and we are starting to be able to communicate much better. We taught her baby sign language so she can sign a lot of words that she isn’t able to say yet. This makes her happier and us happier because now she can tell us what she wants.

    Lennon recently learned what “relax” and “cuddling” means. Before I go in to play poker, she liked to watch Elmo on TV with me. So I put it on for her and she sits straight up and is bouncing up and down because she is so excited that Elmo is on. I then tell her that she should “relax” and then she sort of plops back on the pillow from which point I tell her “Do you want to cuddle” and she usually flashes a big smile and lays in my nook. It’s a pretty cool thing for sure and a great way to start my day. I joke that it is often a pretty odd existence to go from cuddling with my daughter watching Elmo to check raising someone in a high stakes poker game a few hours later, but hey, that’s our life I guess.

    I will have to say I am thoroughly sick of Portland, Oregon right now. I just want summer to get here or I just want to get out of here. The weather has been absolutely awful. Other than when I travel, I swear the sun hasn’t come out (unless it is accompanied by 36 degree weather) in 6 months. Living here in Portland hasn’t bothered me too much over the past 5 years I have been here, but it is starting to take it’s toll on me lately. You can only look outside and see clouds and rain for so long before you start to go nuts. So I sure hope the summer comes soon and we don’t have one of those delayed summers that starts in mid July like we did last year. That seems to be a trend in Oregon lately where the summer keeps rolling in later and later every year. At some point if it gets too short I am going to bail on this place. I need some more sunshine!!

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    It’s been awhile

    Posted by Stosh McConnell

    Hello boys and girls of the Drag The Bar world,

    It's been awhile. So, I figure a life/poker update was in order. March started out with a nice heater for me. That was proceeded by a strong finish to February. Mid-March, my roommates and I decided to take a weeks vacation to Puerto Rico. We stayed in a small hotel on Isla Verde. The beach was a whole 20 steps from our hotel door. The weather was perfect. We pretty much just chilled on the beach the entire vacation. It was super relaxing. We set aside one day for a little trip into Old San Juan. That was cool. I picked a some 1970's football helmet at a vintage store. I have no idea what team it's from, but it will look cool on the wall of our man-cave basement area.

    Since returning, I've had a tough time finding a groove, poker-wise. It's just been up and down. Unfortunately a little more down than up. I've definitely run bad, but other life distractions, out of my control, haven't helped my concentration on poker either. I'm writing this blog hoping it will help get me more focused somehow. I'm telling myself that starting tomorrow, I'm hunkering down and playing focused, energetic, and consistent poker the rest of the month. I usually don't like setting goals relating to poker. I find that a goal like playing x number of hands or hours is not my style. I just want to push myself, and see what happens.

    For a little while before the Puerto Rico vacation, I was playing only 5/10NL and above (up to 40/80). I plan on relaxing that stance a bit and playing 2/4 and 3/6, along with 5/10+, until I feel like I'm back in the groove. We'll see what happens. It all depends on how I'm feeling in the moment.

    Drag The Bar put out my NL25 6-max video yesterday. I hope the NL25 crowd, who requested it, found it helpful. A friend of mine has started watching Drag The Bar videos. He doesn't know much about poker, but is trying to learn. I may do a series trying to coach him. We shall see if I deem him worthy (jk Eric).

    Oh... I almost forgot. Saturday my dad and I caught Cliff Lee return to the mound in Philly for the first time. That was awesome. Philadelphia sports fans are the best. Yes, seriously. The ballpark was super jacked up for everything he did. The ovation Cliff got walking in from the bullpen before the game was amazing. We sat behind home plate in the 19th row. Ruben Amaro Sr sat right next to us. For those that don't know, his son is the Phillies GM. Of course, I could have been a smart ass and told him about all the stupid things he's done, but I kept my mouth shut and just enjoyed the game. And yes, I know he's done some great things, but he's made more terrible moves than most people realize. Ha, I could rant about Philly sports all day.

    Anyway, I hope you guys are doing well at the tables. Good luck.


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    “Of Course I Never Bluff”

    Posted by hotjenny314

    On Friday I went to play the Venetian Deepstack MTT with Collin and some Team Moshmaners that were in town: Debi O’Neill, Jonny Cimone, and John Davis. I went into the tournament as a practice for the WSOP, and with my recent revelation that I was playing live tournaments to similarly to how I play them online.

    In live poker, people play a lot differently against me than they do online, so it makes sense that I too should adjust my play accordingly.  For example, with blinds I believe of 200/400 with an ante I raised to 1100 UTG +1 with pocket tens.  An Asian man in MP1, who had called every single raise by me, and limped/raised every one of my big blinds, flatted.  Everyone else folds.

    Flop: AAJ

    This man bet every single flop regardless of who raised pre. I had known this for a long time and already taken advantage of it by bluff check-raising (with success) twice.  A few hands ago I check-raised a ten high board with queens, and showed since I planned on bluff-check raising him more in the future and wanted to get credit when I did so.

    Obviously this is not a great flop for me.  It is hard to give him credit for an Ace since two are out there and he has shown me that he calls with a large range.  I know that he will bet if I check to him, and if I had never check-raise bluffed him before I certainly would have this hand.  But, from his perspective, I think the scariest looking line is check/call. I don’t like folding because I likely had the best hand pre, and therefore likely still do since he is betting 100% of flops when checked to him. So I check, he bets about half pot (the pot is ~3k) and I call.  (The effective stack is about 12k).


    He has fired the extreme majority of turn cards, and I think that check/calling against this hyper-aggro opponent makes since.  If I bet out I do not think I get a better hand to fold or a worse hand to call, and he could shove on me and force me to fold the best hand. So I check, and he surprises me by checking behind.

    River: J

    Final Board: AAJ8J

    At this point, I have no show down value. If I check he will bet and force me out, even if Ten high had any chance at winning with check/check. At this point the pot is ~6k. My opponent does not strike me as one to miss value—he has shown down many hands and has bet large with top pair on every street. Therefore I think it is very unlikely that he has an Ace.  A jack, however is certainly in his range, and I think I have a good shot at getting him to fold.  He didn’t strike me as one who was super-aware of bet sizing, so I thought I could get away with slightly sub-half pot bet. He is very likely to fold KK, KQ,KJ, suited K-x hands that he likely would have called with Pre, QQ, QJ, suited Q-x hands that he likely would have called with pre.

    To show an immediate profit he has to fold:

    2.8k/(2.8k+6k)= 32%

    32% of the time, which I certainly think is the case. Later the guy saw me on a break and claimed he folded a Jack-- because he said he knew I was not the type to bluff.  My response?  "Of course I never bluff."

    For the whole tourney I really felt like I was doing a great job playing the situation more than my cards, so to speak. The last hand before a break, a LAG raised in MP on my big blind. I was new to the table and hadn’t played a hand that orbit. I re-raised 2.2x with 5-2 offsuit and took it down.

    Unfortunately I ran AK into AA on an Ace high board for 20 big blinds later in the tournament and was out before the dinner break, but the point is that I played my A-game and am excited about all the adjustments I make for playing live versus online.  The WSOP can’t get here fast enough! :)


    Posted by realtalk108

    So I tried to start this blogging project quite some time ago and failed miserably. However, I am back and I'm determined. I am writing this blog more so to hold myself accountable and keep a log of my progress. However, comments are greatly appreciated as I feel mostly any criticism/advice is helpful.

    I have been reading and studying Qtip's Poker Math That Matters, along with reading other materials on the side. Generally I have found that while I play, I tend to zone out. I take actions that I have no reason to take. Its like I do things just to do things. I will also have the TV on and on my phone while playing. While reading Qtips book, I noticed he made mention about people who may know the right thing to do, but just don't do it.

    Today, I am going to make a concious effort to focus on the table. I feel like giving myself a focus and assignment may help me do this so I came up with the following:

    I will play one table. I will calculate pot odds mentally in every pot that I am involved in. I will record my session (if my software decides to work) and comment on why I am taking the actions I am taking. I will also do my best to observe hands that have gone to showdown and take notations on betting patterns, etc. I will do this for the minimum of an hour, preferably two.

    Also, I will take breaks during this session. I will stand up, walk around, stretch, and whatever else may be needed to remain fresh and focused. After this session, I will take some time to review my hands, and post at the minimum one hand.

    Hopefully by writing out a plan, I will stick to it. Let's see if that is the truth tomorrow.

    Til later everyone. :)

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